Prologue: 【Hellish Overtime Working into Armageddon】
Star after star rushes by.
Dozens upon dozens.
Have you ever seen a shooting star?
Some people would marvel at the fantastical sight, while others would shout out their wishes. I think everyone’s reaction would be different.
However, the sight of a descending meteor crashing through the sky, now that's something you've never seen, right?
With a thundering crack splitting the heavens, striking the earth with its overwhelming mass and speed.
Maybe some of you have seen such a thing on television or a certain web animation site. Still, I don't think any of you would want to watch a downpour of meteors up close.
Right now, raining hell on the land before me, more than a hundred meteors are falling one after another.
Wait! I shouldn't talk like it’s none of my business, since the culprit of this Armageddon is none other than yours truly.
What was then a thoughtless action no more than ten minutes ago, has become shooting stars that are carving out earth.
From a few kilometers away to the canyon over yonder, shooting stars are striking this vast expanse, annihilating the “enemies” I assume are there.
Though I do not know the details, as dots on the radar display vanish like dust being wiped away in the corner of my sight, I am aware that countless lives are perishing wherever meteors make contact.
Then, when most of the shooting stars have sunk into the horizon, the sounds of those impacts finally arrive, and soon after, the impacts themselves come as tremors.
I see the dust storm blowing across the ground approaching—
Suddenly, a searing pain assaults me as if by divine punishment.
Like my skull being sawed open.
Like being drawn and quartered.
That pain knocks me out, and soon, my body is swallowed by the dust storm.
Let’s go back a in time a bit.
In order to rush the release of the later-than-late project, I was working overtime this weekend. My title is a programmer for a firm that develops smart phone apps and browser games commissioned by large companies.
No matter how heartless my company really is, it normally wouldn't force two or more projects on one person. But despite there being still so many bugs and spec changes on the verge of release, the young programmer who is my junior had vanished! How disappointing!
Due to high workplace turnover, the only programmers employed at this company were Kouhai-shi and me. Unable to expect the company to find replacements in time, I was in a bind where, besides working on my own project, I also had to pick up after my junior's hack job of a project.
“Alright, all the class specs and annotations are done, then after getting the docs and dependencies from the auto-documenter, the bug is officially fixed~”
I stretch a bit and twist my neck with a crack.
Looking around, I see everyone here at work as if it’s not even the weekend. Regrettably, that’s a common sight at this workplace.
On the seat next to me, the man in charge of debug patches is doing his work while grumbling, but no one is giving him looks. No time for that.
The artists and designers nearby are also working silently, sporting dead fish-eyes.
When I returned to my seat after making coffee, the computer has done its job, having compiled the data needed for debugging.
It was done without any of this data so no wonder it was a hack job.
Kouhai-shi was thrown to the wolves without time for OJT, so there's no use complaining, is there? Half a year ago, there were once four programmers when my junior entered the company, and now I am the only one left, which makes me wonder about Corporate’s opinion on this.
“Sa-...Suzuki-san, the client complained that the difficulty of WW is too high for beginners and made a request to change it, what do”
Turning around, I see Metabo-shi, the supervisor and project manager, asking with his usual baffled expression.
That bastard almost called me Satou. It's been half a year since the team formed, don’t give me that mix-up crap!
Also, despite the crisis at hand, he looks happy. Why is it that most developers are masochists?
WW is the nickname of our current main project, the web game “War World”. It is a strategy game set in a fantasy world, with added social networking features.
“If we lower the difficulty any more, our target player group won't play, so didn’t I say no?”
That's right, the current difficulty is a decision made after numerous client meetings. Letting all that wasted time be in vain? I might cry.
“The account creation reward we didn’t use before, the set of one map exploration and three map annihilation bombs, would that work? By giving experienced players a title for clearing levels without using that, we can encourage them to proactively avoid using the rewards, no?”
“We have no time, so that’ll do~. Well, please implement that, Suzuki-san.”
Metabo-shi orders me casually as he always does.
“Wait a minute. I'm rushing the debugging for the mobile MMORPG, so go get permission from the client first! If I do that and get vetoed, there won’t be time to fix it.”
“OK, I'll call to confirm~”
Waddling his wide torso, Metabo-shi disappears to the smoking area with his phone in hand.
From there, I calmly start working while talking to myself.
As the night goes on, I get the go-ahead from Metabo-shi, and fill my stomach with junk food.
After fixing the numerous careless mistakes Kouhai-shi made until dawn, I leave the rest to the debugging team.
Oh yeah, what's the game called again?
I've always called it “MMO” or “Role Playing Game”, and can't remember its official name.
...Right, it's “Freedom Fantasy World”. Since that’s easy to confuse with WW’s old name “Fantasy War World”, no one referred it directly.
I think old specifications used FFW as the abbreviation.
After that, “Fantasy” was dropped from WW’s name, and “Role Playing Game” became a unnecessary alias as that game is now known as “Freedom Fantasy Life”, FFL for short. So, they are no longer easy to confuse, but we had already gone through all that trouble.
“Suzuki-san, the group testing Storage is reporting a bug!”
“What is it this time? If you mean the infinite capacity bug for non-premium items, didn’t I just take care of that?”
“That’s the FFL inventory bug, you know? This is for WW, something about an item duplication bug. Look at the attached file in the messenger for details.”
“Okay. Damn, duplication bugs are annoying!”
Ugh, working on both at the same time is confusing. By the way, Storage isn’t some external file storage, but the item inventory in WW.
I proceed to edit WW on one hand, and deal with each entry in the report from the debugging team on the other.
Meanwhile, I get a message from Fat Guy to remove the capacity limit of Storage when beta testing WW.
You bastard, trying to avoid a scolding by sending a message are you! I'll make you pay for lunch later.
Wanting to perform stress tests, the debugging team for FFL requests me to remove the level limit temporarily. Even though that should be the server team’s job.
I curse as I continue to make changes. Ah, will it be an all-nighter again?
When the tests finish in the morning, we miraculously send out the client-side application for FFL.
There might still be bugs of course, but we can distribute the legendary weapon passed down generations known as “Update Patches” over the internet, so there is no need to worry.
I can just hear the players raging, but I'm sleepy now.
After sending an executable package of WW that I made for the debugging team to Fat Guy via the company e-mail, I get my first sleep in thirty hours inside the haven under my desk.
Ahh, unparalleled bliss. Call me a corporate slave, but right now, sleep is justice!
Do you know the term “Lucid Dreaming”?
As in a dream where you know it's a dream.
I am out in the wilderness.
Yes, the wilderness. Just imagine the Grand Canyon in America, alright?
How do I know it is a dream?
Remembering that I was last falling asleep under the office desk is one reason, and another is that I can now see four “Icons” in my view at the bottom-right, a toolbar named “Main Menu” top-right, and a radar map displaying my surroundings.
Same as the interface in WW which I was just working on.
Well then! This is not the first time that, when sleeping after a Death March, I have dreamed about debugging. It's a mystery why I'm out in the wilderness, and not at the office or in my room, but that's probably because the office was too dry, or some similar reason.
The smell of parched soil stimulates my nose. It even comes with a sense of smell, what a rare dream.
After trial and error, I finally discover that I can open the Main Menu with my thought. Trying to touch it would invert the display order and cause a bug where I can’t do anything. Cute. Just like opening the Menu, I can just operate it by thinking, so it’s no big deal.
It feels like the Main Menu items are a mix of FFL and WW, but asking for conformity in a dream is pointless.
My character name is “Satou”, as expected. After always being mistakenly called Satou, it has become the name of all my test characters.
Besides my status being initialized to Level 1, and my equipped items happen to be the energy bar, wallet, and phone I had on me before falling asleep.
Wow, it really feels like a dream!
Looking around, I see in the edge of my eyes a place where the ground suddenly cuts off. Thinking that it is probably a cliff, I head closer.
Apparently, I'm standing on some sort of butte, right above a hundred-meter cliff. Nearby, there are similar pillar-like platforms protruding from the ground. Everywhere below the cliff looks the same, an endless wasteland of reddish-brown.
I can see a crack in the horizon like a crevice in the land, but when I open the map to check, every place but the surrounding is hidden. If this is works like in WW, the map will be blank wherever I haven't explored.
The name on the upper left of the map reads 「Dragon Canyon」, so was that crevice the 「Dragon Canyon」? I stare intently that way, but don't spot any dragons.
I do see something else though.
Beyond the side of the cliff closest to me, something is kicking up dust and coming closer. It looks like a cavalry unit that might appear in fantasy movies.
I briefly peek at the four icons in the bottom-right corner of my sight, three of which say 「Meteor Shower」 and one saying 「Full Map Exploration」. The newbie perks program that came about after intense brainstorming between Metabo-shi and me.
Driven by an unbearable sense of anxiety, I select 「Full Map Exploration」.
When the radar finished scanning for enemies, the approaching group is labeled as hostile with red dots.
Since the radar window is too small, I open the map to confirm enemy positions.
The approaching group seems to be a mere tiny fraction of all hostile units. The entire upper half of the map is dyed in red by countless enemies.
...Uh, isn't that too many?
The hostile group approaching is labeled 「Reptilian Tribe Elites」. Three hundred of them with levels averaging fifty. It doesn’t look like the kind of opponent a barehanded Level 1 player can win against.
They stop five hundred meters away from the cliff.
To avoid being discovered, I observe them from behind a rock for now.
Though I know they are a cavalry unit, it's impossible to make out details with the naked eye. Judging by their silhouette, they’re not riding horses, but I can’t deduce any more than that.
One of the riders drives their steed this way.
Thanks to his approach, I can finally see their appearance. What they’re riding on isn’t a horse, but some Velociraptor-like creature; also, the warrior riding it isn’t human, but a lizardman.
“●●●●●●●●! ●●●●●●●●●●! ●●●●●●●!”
The lizardman yells in an unknown language. Clearly, he did so only because he knows where I am. This is surely a ridiculous dream-like development.
The guy waits a bit for my reply, then, perhaps having become impatient from the lack of response, immediately makes a move.
He readies the longbow in his hand this way, and he pulls back the string. I can almost see his body glow red faintly, but soon I can no longer afford to care.
The arrow that guy fired, with a whistle-like timbre, shoots straight this way.
Without being deflected by gravity, it shoots toward me in a straight line. The instant I steeled myself against dying in a dream, the arrow merely scraped my cheek.
My cheek, it feels burning hot.
I touch my cheek, and my hand feels something slippery. I check my palm, and as expected, it has been dyed bright red.
I lick the blood on my hand, which tastes of iron rust— Is this really a dream? The doubt begins forming in my mind.
*SHAAAH*, the sound like that of a terrain-altering monsoon reaches my ears.
Arrows those soldiers fired fly this way, tracing out arcs.
I quickly slip into a gap behind the rock. Actually, saying I stumbled into it would be more accurate.
Without even time for one breath, several arrows strike where I just was.
The arrows that struck the ground first are knocked over by later ones. When I see the extremely sharp arrowheads, I feel as if I’m dipped in cold water, shivering all over.
With the rock I am hiding under at the center, arrows focus-fired on a circle with radius less than ten meters. You could say that they are all experts, but the me at that time was unable to admire that.
What is occupying my mind, terror.
If you have been chased by monsters in dreams, you should understand that terror.
I didn’t have many options. Sit here and wait to die, or run away between the gaps of arrows raining down— or “Retaliate”.
I select one of the three 「Meteor Shower」 icons that have been sitting in the corner of my sight.
After indicating that it has been used, the icon vanishes.
But, that is it.
“Come on, it wasn't even installed in the end...”
As if to agitate my frustration, the cascade of arrows continue to fall. Slowly but surely, the rock I am hiding under is being chipped down bit by bit.
“How powerful are those bows!? Are these guys the Yoichi Squad?”
As I curse, I also use the remaining two 「Meteor Shower」 icons. However, still nothing else happens besides the disappearance of those icons.
Finally, one arrow flies past the shaved-down rock and brushes past my shoulder.
“Damn! Losing due to a bug. Even Bad Ends should have standards—”
The complaints meant to drown out my uneasiness trails off. If you ask why, it’s because countless shooting stars are breaking through the clouds.
I am completely baffled, as the scene takes away my breath.
Thanks for waiting.
We're finally back at the start.
Name: Suzuki Ichiro. IGN: Satou. This is how my life in an alternate universe began.